Sunday, August 26, 2012

Woodpecker Days

I once read that the woodpecker is the harbinger of change—his rhythmic drumming means that the beat will soon be changing in your life. That may or may not be true, but in any case there was a woodpecker in my yard today, and as we were packing our youngest son up for his senior year of college, I was overcome with the realization that yes, change is coming, once again.
            I spent a good portion of my life trying to keep everything the same, but needless to say, I failed. The babies turned into toddlers, who turned into school-aged kids, who turned into teens, college students and then went off on their own. My parents left this earthly realm—far too soon, in my opinion. I won’t even get into the physical changes that come with age, but if you’re over thirty, you probably know what I’m talking about. 
On the other hand, had it not been for change, I never would have evolved from an anxious, fearful mom to a mostly calm, meditative yogini who can do all kinds of asanas I wouldn’t have even have fathomed in my younger years. I used to look upon change with fear and worry. But my first, beloved yoga teacher taught me, “Change is good.” And think how drab it would be to have to deal with baby diapers forever, or to always be doing laundry for five instead of two.
            So, with woodpeckers in my backyard, and kids in my neighborhood getting ready to trot back to school with new backpacks and outfits, and my own college son starting off his final year as a student (unless, of course, he goes to grad school!), I’m reminded again that the best way to deal with change is to welcome it.
            The owl is said to be the wisest bird, but I think the woodpecker’s right up there with him.  He reminds us not to be complacent, to know that nothing is forever, to realize that change is in our very nature. As my husband’s grandmother was once so fond of saying, “Nothing stays the same.” Even love ripens and grows stronger, deeper or wider, or fades away.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Bumper Crop

It’s been a busy summer and I haven’t had time to pay much attention to what’s going on in my yard, which lately looks rather like a scene from a Tarzan movie. But the other day I did happen to take note of my pear trees, and it looks like a bumper crop.
            I have four pear trees on my tiny piece of NJ property, and some years about four pears are all I get. But this year hundreds of pears are dangling from the branches, or dropping to the ground (and, I admit, are now swarming with bees and flies). I was so thrilled with the pears the first few years I lived here that I made every pear delicacy imaginable. Pear pie, pear crisp, pear cake, pear sauce, you name it. We don’t spray the pear trees, however, so cutting up the pears and removing the little worms that get into them can take a good long while, so after a few years of that I gave up.
            I then began gathering up the fallen pears with a wheelbarrow and tossing them into the compost. At least that way they weren’t wasted. I also offered the pears to neighbors (with a caveat about the worms, of course), and I remember one year when the kids loaded pears into their wagon and went up and down the block passing them out (again, with the requisite worm warning).
            It’s great that I have beautiful pear trees that grace my property with gorgeous white blossoms each spring, but the way things are now in my spinning little life, this bumper crop is sadly, “going to the dogs” (if dogs were interested in pears, which they seem not to be).
            Of course, this “got me thinking” about life in general, and about what other things might be dangling from metaphorical branches, waiting to be picked or plucked, and about how many things might go unnoticed, or not taken advantage of. And it came to me that the “Universe” (or whatever word you choose to describe the forces that converge to allow things to happen in our lives) offers us so many gifts every day that it’s virtually impossible to pick them all. Some fall to the ground. Some we just don’t notice. Some we suspect might have worms so we don’t even give them a chance.
            Most of us have a bumper crop whether we know it or not. We have endless choices and possibilities before us every day. We have family, friends, opportunities, and blessings in our lives that we don’t even see (and some that we do). It makes me wonder why I ever whine or complain. On any given day, the ripe, juicy, pears are infinite.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What's Your Phone's IQ?

I will admit that I don’t have a "smartphone" (not yet, anyway!). In fact, at times, my phone seems incredibly dumb. About all it can do is make and receive calls. How stupid is that?
            Oh, I forgot. It can also text and take pictures. And I suppose it can do a few other things, too, that I never bothered to figure out. But it can’t tell me where I can find gluten-free pizza or whether there’s traffic on the highway. And I can’t get any cool “apps” for it, either. So I guess it really is dumb.
            I was talking to a friend not too long ago about the intelligence of her particular phone and she, too, revealed that she had not yet upgraded to a phone with an advanced degree. “It just makes me feel so stupid,” she admitted, “since I’m the only one in my office without one.”
            I got to thinking about her comment the other day, and I wondered why it is that grown adults sometimes behave like adolescents (no reflection on my friend—I’m as guilty as anyone). Why is it that we must have the same phone, car, camera, etc as the guy next door?
            I remember—back in the day—being very perturbed because I did not own a pair of Bass Weejun loafers. I nagged my poor parents until they finally scraped together enough pennies to get me some, but once I had them, there was always another fad item that was desperately needed. Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately), my parents totally ignored my pleas for a Barbie doll (I had been given the unfashionable Mitzi as a gift by a family friend and thus was stuck with her). For years, I bemoaned this blot on my childhood.
            So, I wonder, like the Bass penny loafer, and like the Barbie, why do I feel that I must have a smartphone?  And how many grown adults are fretting over how many “friends” or “likes” they have on Facebook? And why must we feel dumb or inadequate if we don’t have the latest gadget (just like our kids)?
            Like the rest of the Joneses, I will no doubt eventually get a smartphone. But until I do, I am going to try to appreciate the very adequate little phone that I do have. Besides, no one has measured the smartphone's emotional IQ (or rather, EQ).  Maybe a “smart phone” could tell me where to get a good haircut, but until it can give me a hug when I’m feeling sad, how smart, really, can it be?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Happiness Is...

I don’t care what the Beatles say, this week I discovered that happiness is an outdoor shower. I was visiting my best friend at the ocean when I stumbled upon this enlightening realization. While standing stark naked gazing up at the trees, enjoying the rush of warm water in the open air, I was overcome with complete and utter bliss. Who would have ever thought that the elusive happiness for which everyone is constantly searching, could be hiding right here at my pal’s summer home?
            Yes, yes I know. I suppose the outdoor shower would get old after a while. I know plenty of people who seem deliriously happy just after they buy a new pair of shoes or a new car, and then a few weeks later, when I see them again they’re as miserable as ever. And I know that what makes me happy may not make you happy; you may have no interest at all in sharing your shower with spiders and hummingbirds. And I know, as the yogis say, that happiness is within us; it doesn’t come from any external object or experience. I know all that.
            I also know, that for a parent, it’s nearly impossible to be happy when your child is sick or unhappy (I’ve covered this aspect before on this blog so I won’t go there again). And I know that there is no key to happiness (just as there is no road to peace as the hippies used to say). Happiness is the key. Yes, I know all that.
            I read recently in a book that work is the key to happiness. I don’t believe that though, because I know plenty of people who work immensely hard, and are inordinately miserable. Nor do I think that leisure time is the answer; too many people find scads of unhappiness even while on vacation.
            I don’t believe that happiness must be fleeting, as some suggest. I’m quite sure that it’s possible to live in a state of constant, never-ending bliss; to let go of cravings and desires, to live in the moment, and to see grace and beauty in the wind, the sunset, the flowers, and in your big toe. I think all that is perfectly reasonable, and I hope to get there one day.
            One of my favorite yogi masters, Yogi Bhajan, was fond of saying, “Happiness is your birthright.” I happen to agree with that statement. But until we all get what is our due, I still maintain that an outdoor shower is as good a place as any to find happiness. Hummingbirds, spiders, and all.